Monday, April 9, 2012
You and Your Boring Numbers
Sell, sell, sell. Market your book, pimp it like a mofo, tell us all about those numbers.
Man, is that shit ever boring.
I just read a blog post from a writer who has been hanging in that weird ether between commercial success (you know, where, say, James Patterson hangs) and total oblivion (where, well, guys like me make their home) for a long time now. The post was all about the amazing number of books he sold recently. In fact, MOST of this guy’s posts are about that subject; when they aren’t about that, they’re about other writer’s sales figures.
I can take a little bit of this kind of thing. Just a little bit. And then I start feeling sick to my stomach. Why? Because I’m not a whore, I guess.
Maybe I’m not being fair? After all, most of us want to sell more books, yeah? We want to be able to do something as simple and basic as make a decent living.
But what price are we willing to pay for that? Are we ready to go the whole hog, focus ourselves so intently on marketing strategies and promotional blitzes that we lose sight of the work itself? Because, let me tell you, the blog post in question was written so poorly, so haphazardly, that I wondered a little how this writer made it as far as he has.
The tone of the post was really… combative, also. I don’t know why. And it seemed to suggest that, if you really want to obtain commercial success, you need to remove yourself from those “lesser” beings known as independents.
Perhaps I was misreading it… or maybe it was just so poorly constructed that the true point was lost somewhere amidst all the crowing about sales numbers and “units” moved.
Any writer who refers to books as “units” needs to be smacked in the mouth. Let the suit-and-tie types with dollar signs for eyeballs talk like that, not you, the writer. Have some respect for your craft.
A little less focus on numbers and a little more focus on quality might be in order.
Once in a while, I’ll take a stab at promotional stuff, just to see if I can find a way to get my work in front of a bigger audience. But I don’t invest a great deal of time in it. I’d like to make more money (ANY money, actually), but I don’t have much interest in writing anything commercial. It’s just not what I do, and it never has been. My goal as a writer is to stay absolutely true to myself. You know what I mean? If the world’s tastes suddenly change and my sort of work becomes mainstream out of nowhere, well… fine. I wouldn’t complain. But I have no intention of tailoring what I do to fit a bigger audience.
Because of that, promotional stuff is only going to take me so far. So why not just concentrate on becoming better and better at what I do?
I know that there are some of you reading this who might think I’m being pretentious. That’s fine. Maybe I am. But while I don’t take myself too seriously as a writer, I DO take my writing seriously. I’m not messing around here. This is about craft and… yes, even art. And it means everything to me.
That’s something that’s not said often enough. Most of us are too embarrassed to say it out loud. But it’s true.
I just hate to see it cheapened by such a fixation on commerce.